David Uren & Asa Wahlquist; 27/4/10
Environment Minister Penny Wong has released a report claiming the government’s controversial buy-back of water licences will cause only minimal damage to irrigators and rural communities. The $1.5 billion that the government is expected to spend buying water licences over the next two years will reduce the amount of water going to irrigation by 6 per cent but will only reduce output of irrigated crops by 2.4 per cent, most of which would have been phased out anyway, according to the report, prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Senator Wong said the report answered criticism that the government’s water purchases were bad for regional economy. “The report shows that purchasing water is not only helping the environment by returning much needed water to the basin’s rivers and wetlands, it also helps irrigators,” she said.